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3dfx damns Nvidia patent suit

Blames it on 'a lack of confidence' in Nvidia's defence of 3dfx's own allegations

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Updated 3dfx has vowed to fight back "vigorously" against Nvidia's claims that its two most recent generations of 3D chip violate its arch-rival's patents.

On Monday, Nvidia filed a patent infringement suit against 3dfx, citing five technologies it owns and it reckons 3dfx is using in its Voodoo 3 and VSA-100 graphics accelerators.

We noted in our report yesterday that 3dfx had itself charged Nvidia with a similar patent transgression, back in 1998, and that's what 3dfx believes Nvidia's latest move is all about.

"Nvidia's filing of a suit is clearly an attempt to force a settlement of our existing patent infringement lawsuit against Nvidia, and we believe demonstrates a lack of confidence in their current defence," 3dfx president and CEO Alex Leupp said in a statement.

He may have a point. Nvidia's latest SEC filing notes that "we are subject to a patent infringement lawsuit that could divert our resources and result in the payment of substantial damages". [our italics - and thanks to reader Nick De Rico for the link]

That said, Nvidia's statement is a classic fiscal caveat, and the company may simply be protecting its posterior from irate shareholders in case the 3dfx suit ultimately goes against it.

3dfx's case centres on Nvidia's alleged use of its multi-texturing technology. Nearly two years on, the case continues, despite a number of hearings, though 3dfx has added further alleged patent infringements to the case in the meantime, in March 1999 and May 1999.

3dfx said it expects a judicial decision to be made soon on how its claims should be interpreted.

Nvidia's action focuses on the way add-in cards and the chips mounted on them can speed up the transfer of data between board and host. Three of the five patents were assigned to Nvidia more than two years ago, which makes us wonder why the company never made a fuss about it before. A tactical lawsuit? It certainly sounds like one. ®

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Related Link

Nvidia's latest SEC filing

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